Thank You, Mister Keynes, may we have another?

For whatever reason - call it nerdiness - I found myself thinking in the shower this morning that there was one name I'd not heard mentioned so far during all of the discussions of the current economic crisis/bailout: John Maynard Keynes. And I imagined that somewhere, his ghost is going fraternity on the Milton Friedman's spectral bum.

If we think about it too much, the current moment with its bailout feels just a bit like we're being sold snake oil. And so we're being urged to not think. Just act. Part of that discomfort we're having, though, is because that the bailout and the policies behind fly in the face of how we've been told we should believe and want the economy to work.

We probably shouldn't be surprised at polls that show the average American is either confused or untrusting of the whole thing, and probably generally apathetic. At the heart of the bailout is the idea that has been at the forefront of mainstream economics for the last several decades: that whatever is left over will be passed down to the guy at the bottom of the chain. And what the bottom of the chain has learned is that what's always passed on is cost. Sure, this time it's astronomical. But it's more of the same. Remember this when you hear the phrase trickle down economics.

There's a lot to be considered in the midst of this argument, not the least of which is whether we're going to learn that the market, left to its own devices, is perhaps best compared to a child left home alone for the first time. It isn't bad, exactly, but it's going to do bad things.For Keynes, the economy was always political. To think that it could be divorced from it was folly. Economic policy for the last forty years or so has vehemently tried to deny this, suggesting that the market should correct everything (except when it doesn't). Privatization isn't bad, but as David Ignatius so succinctly concludes, "public purposes are best served by public institutions."

And that means the public has to get something out of it.


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